You'll Want to Relive These Heartwarming Facts About The Father of the Bride

When Kimberly Williams-Paisley auditioned for Father of the Bride on a whim, she never imagined what she was committing to. Three decades later, she shares her experience with E! News.

By Sarah Grossbart Dec 20, 2021 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Steve Martin Is Ready for a Roast at AFI Tribute

Okay, we're just going to say it. 

While every party may very well have a pooper, George Banks (Steve Martin) was kinda justified in his complaints. Not only did his 22-year-old daughter (played by then-newcomer Kimberly Williams-Paisley) return from a three-month study abroad trip engaged to some guy they'd never met, she expected her dad to pony up for a 572-person, $250-a-plate over-the-top affair at their sizable California spread. 

Or, as the patriarch put it in Father of the Bride, "When I bought this house 17 years ago it cost less than this blessed event in which Annie Banks became Annie Banks-MacKenzie. I'm told that one day I'll look back on all this with great affection. I hope so."

And yet, despite what eccentric wedding planner Franck (Martin Short) labeled as the titular father's curmudgeonly ways, Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer's remake of the Spencer Tracy- and Elizabeth Taylor-led 1950 classic about a dad's begrudging acceptance that his little girl isn't actually little anymore so thoroughly charmed audiences that it raked in $129 million at the worldwide box office. 

Father of the Bride Cast, Then and Now

And nearly three decades after its Dec. 20, 1991, release, we all happily signed on to YouTube and Facebook to check in on the Banks crew (including matriarch Diane Keaton and little brother Kieran Culkin) during Netflix's September 2020 virtual reunion special, Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish)

"I just love the length of time this movie has been around and affecting people's lives and the impact that it's had on so many families," said Williams-Paisley who chatted with E! News about her experience on the film and the success of her and husband Brad Paisley's Nashville-based nonprofit The Store, which gave away more than1.5 million meals in its first year. Though their planned 2020 grand opening was tempered a bit due to COVID, "We just hit the ground running," she shared. "What was so cool was that it was all lined up so we had the means to help people right away when they needed it so badly."

And, yes, we'd guess shoppers approach her in the aisles to ask about the beloved flick. "For so many years," she shared, "people would come up and tell me about their wedding or tell me about playing basketball with their dads and all these things." 

Hard to blame them. Just like Annie Banks falling hard and fast for new fiancé Bryan MacKenzie (George Newbern), we were quickly and all-encompassingly enamored with the coming of age story. So to celebrate 30 years' worth of touching father-daughter moments and brides wearing sneakers underneath their wedding gowns, will you vow to love these facts about Father of the Bride as fiercely as we do?

1. No party pooper, here! Steve Martin signed on to play Father of the Bride's titular role before Nancy Meyers had even begun her script—a remake of the 1950 comedy. "It's a gift," Meyers noted while participating in the 2015 BAFTA & BFI Screenwriters' Lecture Series, "because you know you're writing for Steve Martin, so you know you can be funny and you can be loose and you can do all these twists and turns in the scene." 

2. She also had Diane Keaton, the star of her and co-screenwriter Charles Shyer's 1987 rom-com Baby Boom, in mind. Though that one was a bit of a tougher sell. 

"Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who'd worked with me before, had to beg to get me into Father of the Bride. I was very fortunate, because they were very staunchly for me," Keaton revealed to Film Scouts in 1996. "Just before Father of the Bride, I'd done a movie called The Good Mother, which was a big failure. Like, big failure. And that was it! And that was a Disney movie. So when Charles and Nancy wanted me for Father of the Bride, Disney didn't want anything with me."

3. Martin Short didn't dream up wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer—he of the thick accent and propensity for saying things like, "Well, welcome to the '90s, Mr. Banks!"—all on his own. Rather, Franck was based on real life events pro Kevin Lee. "Oh yeah, absolutely it was me!" Lee, the genius behind Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt's 2000 vows, told Bravo's The Daily Dish in 2016. 

When a producer let him in on that secret, "I was totally shocked," he said. But also delighted. "He captured my character so well and I was overwhelmed," he said of Short. "Officially, I am the Franck."

4. And to think Short was hesitant to sign on for the sequel. "Only because it seemed like the character was such an extreme spice in the first one and it kind of had been successful and you didn't want to taint it with an appearance," he explained in a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose.

Then Short read the script and agreed to sign on with a few alterations. "In the first one, the character really existed as a comedic bone of contention for Steve Martin," he shared, noting how Martin's George was the only one who struggled to understand Franck. "In the sequel, no one at any point says, 'What did he say?' Because we've done that. So I softened the accent a little bit without losing the character."

5. A then-19-year-old Kimberly Williams-Paisley (though the Northwestern University sophomore was going by just Kimberly Williams at the time) was actually more nervous about getting to her audition than the read itself. "I just auditioned on a whim," she admitted to E! News. "Not trying to get the part, necessarily, I was just trying to figure out if I could manage taking the L train into Chicago for the first time. Because I'm from New York and I had taken subways my whole life and I was like, 'Well, how hard could it be? This is a good excuse to go into the city from Evanston to see if I can figure out this train.'"

She'd wager the nonchalance actually helped her beat out the countless others who were seen during the exhaustive search. "I think that actually helped me because I wasn't nervous for the audition at all," she shared. "I just thought there was no chance that I was going to get it. Because marriage was the furthest thing from my mind as a sophomore in college."

6. So actually scoring the role of the film's bride was a huge shock. Temporarily dropping out of college, she moved to L.A. by herself, "which was terrifying in and of itself," she recalled. "I mean, they took good care of me, but I didn't know anybody there. I didn't have any friends there. I remember they took me to a beauty salon and I had to spend hours getting my eyebrows plucked and my legs waxed—all those things I'd never done before. And then just navigating my way around and the high pressure of a big movie. It was really nerve-wracking. It was also really exciting."

7. Though, truly, nothing could have prepared her for the overnight fame. Williams-Paisley, who recently teamed up with real-life sister Ashley Williams for Hallmark Channel's Sister Swap series, recalled "people just kind of freaking out" after the movie's release. "You know, chasing me down the street or hyperventilating. That stuff was so weird. And I just had absolutely no preparation for that at all. I didn't know anybody that was famous, except for Steve and Diane and Marty."

8. She credited onscreen love interest George Newbern with being her real life rock. "George was my saving grace because it was this huge Hollywood movie, and I was kind of intimidated by Steve Martin and Diane Keaton even though they were fantastic to me," she explained to Glamour in 2014. "I mean, Steve really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes and explained what they were doing. He was so nice. And Diane was just hysterical. But George was my partner in crime. It was terrifying and wonderful at the same time."

9. Though she and Martin were buddies as well. "I remember my first day on set with Steve, he said, 'Okay, welcome to Hollywood. You're going to need a good therapist,'" Williams-Paisley recalled to E! News. "And he was so right." 

He was generous with more than just advice, too. "Steve invited me to lunch practically every day," she revealed. "And he'd always have really interesting people with him. I remember one time he invited me out and Michael Caine joined us for lunch. He hung out with really cool people and he was so inclusive and I was really grateful. And Diane and I just loved laughing. She was so funny."

10. One "stressful" scene still kind of haunts Williams-Paisley to this day: The moment Annie receives a blender from her husband-to-be, sending her into a spiral about what kind of wife he imagines her to be. As she worries that he expects her to give up her architect dreams, Annie dissolves into sobs. "The only problem was, Kim couldn't," the actress recalled in a 2017 essay for ABC News. "Through each of my four auditions, I worried along with everyone else in the room that if I got the part, I wouldn't be able to cry on cue. I hadn't had much training on how to access emotion yet, and the more I worried over being expected to weep, the less likely it became."

Acting out the scene with Martin (whose job it was to find and comfort her), she failed to conjure up tears through 40-some takes. Sitting on set, "'I'm not cut out for this,' I thought. 'I don't belong here. I am failing,'" she recalled. "'I'd cried many times in my life, not to mention recently, why couldn't I do it now?'"

As she ran through an inner monologue about how bad she was at acting, "The thought was such a punch in the gut that suddenly I sobbed," she shared. "A blessed sob!" Director Shyer yelled action and tears streamed down her face: "That last take was the one they used."

11. And, yes, she found it just a wee bit stressful stepping into Elizabeth Taylor's heels. Knowing that the original was so popular, "I actually didn't see that movie until we were totally done because I didn't want it to influence me," she shared with E! News. "I didn't want it to freak me out more than I was already freaked out."

Afterwards, she reached out to the screen legend, "because everyone was like, 'Oh, what does Elizabeth Taylor think?'" she revealed. "I was hoping to have a moment with her." Alas, the five-time Oscar winner never responded. 

12. Despite all that agita, Williams-Paisley credits the film with changing her entire life—including leading her to real-life husband Brad Paisley. In 1991, the future country star was still an aspiring musician and for him and the girl he was dating "it was, like, their movie," Williams-Paisley shared with E! News. And yet the 18-year-old singer had a hard time focusing on anything other than the insanely attractive actress he saw onscreen. 

Four years later, newly single and a little sad, he returned to the theater for Father of the Bride Part II and, once again, found himself entranced by the star. "I thought, she seems like a great girl—smart and funny and all those things that are so hard to find," he told Good Housekeeping.

He'd go on to write a song about his experience seeing the movie for his 2001 album Part II. And at that point, he told the mag, "It felt natural to ask her to be in it. Even though I didn't know if she was married, divorced or just out of rehab." 

The actress was none of those things, but she was intrigued. "He woke up one morning and decided he wanted to call me, so I said alright because I'm a sucker for someone who's interested," she recalled to Meredith Vieira, "and we started dating and pretty soon after that, we were engaged."

Having scored the ultimate meet-cute, it's a tale they've shared a time or two. "It's funny when we tell the story of how we met, he's like, 'Oh yeah, this is what happened: I was dating this girl and blah, blah, blah,' and that's all his version of how he saw me in this movie," Williams-Paisley told E! News. "And my version is, 'Oh yeah, well he stalked me and it was just easier to go ahead and marry him.'"

13. It made sense that Williams-Paisley would return to the film at that pivotal point in her life. "When I made it at 19, I couldn't relate to that at all," she confessed to E! News. "And then I found that when I got engaged, I started quoting the movie. It's like, 'Oh, okay, now I totally get it.'"

14. She finally showed it to sons William, 14, and Jasper, 12, ahead of the 2020 Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish) reunion. "They loved them!" she said of their double feature screening. "They never thought they'd be interested, and I didn't think they'd be interested because it was wedding movie and that was nothing they ever saw or talked about, but they wound up thinking it was really funny." 

And when Mom filmed the third part with Florence Pugh as her sister and Ben Platt as her now-grown son, "It made me cool with my kids!"

15. The actress even borrowed a bit of inspiration for her 2003 vows. "I wore sneakers with the heels," she told Glamour of mimicking Annie's wedding day style. (Which, what do you expect when your dad owns an athletic shoe company?)

"It was great. Down the aisle, I wore heels, but then the rest of it I wore sneakers with the heels," she continued. "It makes perfect sense to wear sneakers because it's such a long night. The least I could do was wear comfortable shoes because you're so busy talking to everybody and dancing, you need them!"

16. Though that was, perhaps, the only bit that she copied. "I had to just go in a totally different direction because there was no way my wedding would ever compare to the movie," she admitted to E! News of her plans. "And I didn't want people to show up and be like, 'Yeah, the movie was better.'"

17. She's not the only bride to be inspired by the film. While the Alahambra, Calif., spread where they shot both the wedding and backyard scenes sold for nearly $2 million in 2016, the charming eight-bedroom Pasadena abode where all of the exteriors were filmed was purchased by Sarah Bradley and Darrell Spence in 1999 and then used for their own at-home nuptials 10 months later. 

When Bradley hired a planner and "gave her our address, she said, 'Oh, you're near the Father of the Bride house,'" she recalled to HGTV Magazine. "I said, 'No, we are the Father of the Bride house.'" The pro's response: "I'm going to be Franck!" In the years since, the parents of two have watched many an inspired couple get engaged out front. 

18. And, yes, the movie wedding was expensive AF. Between the $250-a-plate cost for 572 guests, $10,000 worth of bridesmaid dresses and Annie's eye-popping $68,000 gown, BeFrugal.com put the estimated price tag at $249,323. Williams-Paisley wouldn't be surprised if it were even higher. "Having swans and all of that—the big tent with the gorgeous flowers and everything," she said, "there's no way that was a wedding on a budget."

19. But it was arguably all worth it in the end. "It's a perfect story," Martin summed up the film's classic appeal, "because what happens is so minor, and yet the emotions are so big. It's like the birth of a baby. It's so common, happening all the time, and yet it's one of the most powerful, large things that can happen to you."